Are You Obsessed With Food?

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

Dieters Think About Food More Often Than ‘Normal Eaters’

It’s almost a given that as soon as you start a diet, you think about food more. There are physiological and psychological reasons for this. Both hinge on the fact that if food is restricted, we end up thinking about it more.

Do you constantly have food thoughts such as:

  • “I really want to eat that but I know I shouldn’t.”
  • “I wish I hadn’t eaten all that.”
  • “How many calories have I eaten?”
  • How much will that cookie put me over my daily limit?” 

Research shows that “normal eaters” think about food 15-20% of the time throughout the day, but dieters often will think about food 25-65% of their day. That’s a lot of time you could be putting to better use instead of having thoughts like the ones above.

Has A Food Obsession Started Taking Up Too Much Of Your Life?

Food (Questions) for Thought

  1. Are you eating enough?
    Trying to cut your intake to a low caloric level or tiny portions may be the cause of your food focus. Under-eating is sure to trigger constant food thoughts.
  2. Are you eating too restrictively?
    Eliminating food groups or essential nutrients like carbohydrates or fat can drive cravings. It’s your body telling you you need these things.
  3. Are you denying yourself permission to eat certain foods that you really love?
    Telling yourself you can’t eat something may make it much more appealing, if it’s just done to manage weight. (If there’s a real food sensitivity behind it, that’s a different story.)
  4. Are other people the source of your food focus?
    Spending time with others who constantly talk about food, dieting, calories, grams of this or that, may be fueling your food focus. Is it time to declare a diet-free zone in your life?

If your answer is yes to most of these questions, your reasons for thinking about food all the time might have to do with some of these behaviors, which can be changed with a bit of awareness.

Food Obsession or Disordered Eating?

Food was pretty much all I thought about

Many of you who know me are aware that I used to struggle with disordered eating. I went from anorexia, to binge eating, to bulimia. I honestly can recall days when I was so depressed I didn’t want to get out of bed, but then when I thought about being able to eat, I’d muster the motivation to get up.

At that point in my life, food was pretty much all I thought about. I can see how people struggling with constant food thoughts would begin to label their relationship with food as obsessive or call it food addiction.

Constantly thinking about food and nutrition can make it appear like you have an addiction. However, it’s a normal response to think about food when you are deprived of it.

Food is one of the greatest pleasures of life.

But should it be what you live for?

One of the saddest things about food obsession is how much it distracts from other important things.When I was struggling with disordered eating and hyper-focused on food, there was not much else going on in my life. Looking back, I feel robbed of some pretty important years of my life since there was a lot of good stuff I think I missed out on.

Food is great; you should enjoy it, but should it be what you live for? If you feel like food, nutrition, calorie calculations, and carbo-phobia (I made that word up, but the premise is very real) are taking up way too much of your time and attention, it may be time to examine what you are doing or not doing to create such a huge focus on food in your life.

To learn about how Green Mountain can help with behaviors, such as binge eating, food addiction and food obsession, read about our our women’s healthy living retreat that pioneered the non-diet approach to health.

23 responses to “Are You Obsessed With Food?”

  1. […] or obsessing about eating, or spinning the old familiar loop of the ways you hate your body, or need to change, they all show […]

  2. Klaire says:

    Thank you for this. Food obsession is the body’s natural response. Our minds enter starvation mode when we are deprived and make us want it that much more. I needed this post today, so thanks again.


  3. Aqiyl Aniys | Natural Life Energy says:

    I eat a lot of food and have lost and maintained my weight loss, but food is my friend now compared to before. I love food, but the thing is I eat just a whole food plant based diet. I found that removing foods that had a lot of chemicals additives from my diet helped the most. The hard thing was that those foods are the most additive (cakes with a lot of chemical additives, candy, high fructose corn syrup additives, and cooking with a lot of oil). There is no way around it. Those foods cause to many inflammatory reactions in the body which cause us to retain fat, mucus, and cause illness.

    • Cassie says:

      Thanks for t his post.
      The plain truth is I know how to eat well.
      I forget sometimes. Others it seems like too much work.

  4. Robyn says:

    I’m glad this spoke to you, Klaire. I agree in it being a natural response on the body’s part. Aqiyl Aniys, I love that food is your friend, that is music to my ears. Food can be good to us, especially when you do the work of figuring out which foods make you feel the best, as you have done.

  5. Beth Warner says:

    Some mornings I stand at the sink as I make my aloe drink and I feel so overwhelmed by the thought of having to plan the food for the day. I get through the day relatively well but wish it all came much more easily. This morning I stood at the sink, drank my aloe and just moved on to breakfast. Some days start just fine.

    • Harriet Krivit says:

      Hi Beth…Thanks for your for your honest, inspiring post….A for you for continuing, yes “Some days start just fine”. It’s the courage to keep going and not give up. Big achievement!

  6. says:

    I need help I am obsessed with food all I think about is food and won’t do anything unless food is involved

    • Marsha Hudnall says:

      Did this article help at all, Kelly? What it reviews is at the root of food obsession for a lot of people.

    • Jenny says:

      Not all, but a lot of my energy and time are focused on food. I’m in fat loss mode right now, and I am trying, TRYING to stop obsessing over food and put it in its rightful place. Fuel. Enjoyable, necessary, but just one of the things in my day instead of the most important.
      Hard to break habits of a lifetime.

  7. Beth Warner says:

    I am really struggling as I try to complete a three week course of a true FODMAP Diet. It is so restrictive. I have seen a nutritionist who has made it harder by having me throw out foods I have been adapting to for my gluten free and dairy free needs. These foods and many other things contain carrageenans. So my comfort level has been thrown into a tail spin. I am now again focusing on good food vs. bad food. My inclination is to chuck everything out the window. But I feel that GM had such a positive philosophy that I could maintain and want to try to find a middle ground. I feel disheartened and frustrated.

    • Marsha Hudnall MS, RDN, CD says:

      It is so hard, Beth, when we have food intolerances that make it seem like “good” food and “bad” food. But if you can hang in there, a process like you’re going through may really help you sort out things and heal in the long run. How are you doing with all this — I know my comment is several months late — I just saw it. So sorry.

      • Beth Warner says:

        Marsha, it is a struggle but every day I begin again, write down my food choices, and I make choices. I have a wonderful nutritionist who is patient and full of good ideas. I am making progress. I am grateful for my start at GM and hope to make another visit in the near future. Thank you. Beth

  8. Dana Pelletier says:

    First off, you’re stunningly beautiful. I’m glad you got a grip on your eating situation. The eating cycle I found myself in was ; Wheat Belly syndrome. Once I started in on anything with GMO wheat, specifically , my body just couldn’t stop! The ” you can’t just eat one” became my mantra. That, along with emotional stress, was doing me in. I’ve now gone wheat less and have therapy! Your article is spot on, thank you!

  9. Leslie says:

    I’m 3 days into my raw vegan diet (no im not one of those ‘THE POOR BABY COW HAS FEELINGS’ bc I have and could eat an entire baby cow and not bat an eye) and sweets/baked goods/candy aren’t an issue. But thinking about the salty good yummy dinner food like burgers, pizzas, fried stuff, chicken and dumplings, steak dinners have taken over my entire life. Its seriously all I think about all day. It doesn’t help I have a mother that’s the best cook in the world and while she’s making country fried porkchops smothered in gravy, I’m sitting here with my carrot being hungry and only thinking about how good that pork chop would taste. All day I think about food. I Google my favorite meals just so I can look at them, like I’m about to cry thinking about how hungry I am for a good steak dinner with loaded mashed potatoes, I’m always hungry, im sick of raw unsalted unbuttered veggies and UGH.
    I’m sorry I’m just… This sucks. If I’m this bad on day 2, how can I go the rest of my diet (I’m 170, I wanna get down to 130) when all I think about is food?

  10. Amber says:

    No even when I wasn’t on a “diet” I still thought about food.
    For me it’s because I’m not busy enough. Like when I’m out of the house shopping or whatever I’m fine, or if I’m cleaning I don’t really think about it because I’m so focused on that task. But as soon as I sit down I start compulsively thinking about it.
    Unfortunately I hate cleaning or I’d just clean all day. Lol

    • Marsha Hudnall, MS, RDN, CD says:

      Amber, The ideas we learn through diets can linger long after we think we’ve stopped. The solution is to support yourself physiologically and psychologically in order to sort things out. Sometimes you need help to do that. But there are some good podcasts these days that can help you start to figure things out. If you’re a podcast listener, I recommend Food Psych, Dietitians Unplugged and Love, Food.

  11. Anon says:

    Oh man, this is so tough for me. Food is always on my mind, and has been for as long as I can remember (I’ve been overweight/obese since age 5). My mind is constantly planning what I can eat later, thinking about how much I’ve eaten, etc. If I’m invited to an event, I don’t care about the people or activity at all, all I can think about is what I might get to eat there (oh, is Mike going to bring those awesome nachos again?). I even think back on childhood memories in terms of food. We went on a beach vacation when I was age 10. I remember collections seashells, but my stronger memories are of getting ice cream and eating some really good hot wings. I love going out to eat because the food tastes so much better than what I can make at home. I also love to go out to eat with my mom. I have thought about us trying to find alternative ways to spend time together, but it’s useless. We are super close and love talking, but we don’t really like any similar activities. I love board games (mom finds the, boring) and video games (mom is not good at them and finds them frustrating), while my mom likes going to the movies (buttery popcorn with jalapeños!), antiques (I’m allergic to dust), and gardening (I take medication that makes me very sensitive to the sun). It’s just so rough. I wish I wasn’t like this, but I’ve known no other way to be.

    • Dana Notte says:

      Hi Anon – thanks for commenting. You are right, this is hard. First, I’d like to make clear that it is okay to like food and to find pleasure in eating food. I say that because sometimes we are made to feel like that’s not okay. But, I’ll also say that there are a lot of different factors that can affect our relationship with food and can lead to obsessive thoughts about food. Connecting with someone who can help you understand the roots of your eating behavior, a therapist and/or dietitian, can help you change it and heal.

  12. Spamatroid says:

    I have a very restricted diet. I have a bladder disease (IC), high A1C numbers and high cholesterol, a thyroid disease and gerd. There is so much I can’t eat out there that it makes me think about it all the time. I’ve been like that for years though – the physical problems have made it worse. Add to that how much my Mother used to tell me how fat and ugly I am on a daily basis. It all adds up. I’m wondering if I need a shrink!

    • Dana Notte says:

      Thanks for your comment. It’s difficult to have conditions that are, in part, managed through dietary changes. Especially if those changes leave us feeling restricted. A couple of thoughts that can help – 1) try to avoid using the word “can’t” when referring to food. When we feel like we “can’t” do or have something it makes us want it that much more. Instead, give yourself the option to eat those foods – even if they are foods you know might not agree with your body. Then, decided whether or not you want to eat them. This puts the ball back in your court and gives you choice which can help to disengage the power struggle with food. 2) Try to focus on things you can add to your diet and to your life that bring you joy and pleasure, rather than what you feel you’ve lost. Lastly, as we’re sure you know, this is a tricky complicated process, so yes, sometimes additional support in the form of a therapist, can be quite useful in making positive changes that last. Take care of yourself.

  13. Anjali says:

    I was living a really normal life I would say until I decided to cut my calorie intake in half. I was suddenly so engrossed with losing weight that it consumed me. I had no energy to do anything but get through the day, driven by my next allowance of calories. Now, I’ve realized that was unhealthy for me but I do the complete opposite. I still think about food all the time, but now I eat it instead. Every night I eat any and everything, way past until my stomach hurts. I hate it, and the feeling afterwards; the guilt is overwhelming but then I end up doing it the next night. It will even be healthy things like raw vegetables, but I just eat uncontrollably. I want to stop being obsessed with food but everything triggers it. I don’t even enjoy life much anymore. I’m only 15 and do not have many resources I just want help.

  14. Jason says:

    What should I do if the level of thinking about food I’ve got is I wake up first thing in the morning and think about food despite eating a level of (unhealthy) food before for dinner last night that I’d feel ashamed talking about on this fitness blog?

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